QUESTION: Hi there father,  This question is in regards to confession & the various ways that it can be performed. I heard long time ago, back when I was still going to CCD, that one way to perform a confession is for the individual to write down all his/her sins onto a piece of paper & then proceed to give it to the priest where he(the priest) places the paper into some kind of a bowl & burned up. Like I mentioned earlier, I heard this a long time ago & so my explanation may not be so accurate; however, I was wondering, do they still do this?

ANSWER: What you refer to might be part of a Penance Service.  During certain times of the year, like Advent and Lent, parishes will have Penance services for the parish at large.  In such services, Confession takes place within the context of a Liturgy of the Word service.  Part of the service might include a time where people bring a list of their sins, fold them up and put them in a bowl to be burned.  What you refer to might also take place during a retreat. The same concept holds.   

Normally Confessions do not take place within the context of a service of the Word or retreat.  People sometimes will make a list of their sins to bring to Confession so they don't forget.  Either way, what you experienced does take place, but is not the norm.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you very much father for answering my question.  I have another question for you if you don't mind.  I've been contemplating about this for a little while now, which is the part of the Nicene Creed pray that reads, " Begotten, [not made] consubstantial with the father...What exactly does "not made' in this  pray?

The creed you refer to is called the Nicaean Creed. This creed came from the Council of Nicaea in 325AD.  In 325AD the Church was fighting a heresy called Arianism.  This heresy tore the Church apart at the seams.  The emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea because the disunity of the Church was threatening the stability of the empire. He wanted the bishops to define the Catholic Faith and restore unity to the Church.  

Saint Athanasius lead the council.  It is because of his persistence in defending the Catholic Faith that Truth triumphed.  However, it took about 100 years or so for the heresy to subside.  After the council Arianism actually became worse.  This usually happens.  In the history of the Church, whatever problems lead to the calling of a council get worse after the Faith is defined, before they get better.  Vatican II was no exception.  The emperor eventually went Arian himself and tried to pressure the bishops to reverse Nicaea.  Bishops were tortured, beaten, threatened and cajoled.  Many of the bishops under threat of persecution went along with the emperor, but when the threat of persecution subsided the bishops renounced what they did and fully supported the Nicaean defintions.  

The phrase "Begotten not made" is an answer to the charge of Arius that the Son of God was a created being who is not fully divine.  Arius taught that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God by nature, but rather became the Son of God by adoption.  Arius argued that this adoption took place at the Baptism of the Lord.  

We say "Begotten" because Fathers beget children, and the children they beget are of the same nature as their Father. Because the Father begets a Son, and the Father is eternal, the Son is therefore eternal.  The act of begetting does not happen in time but is eternal. Thus the Son existed from eternity past with the Father.  "Consubstantial with the Father" we are saying that God the Son is equal to the Father in divinity. It is another clarification that the Christian Faith believes God the Son is equal to the Father in majesty and divinity.  

Christians believe (as opposed to Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses that are pseudo-Christian sects) that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are distinct in WHO they are (their personhood) but equal in WHAT they are (God.)  God is a unity in divinity, but distinct in personhood.  

As an aside: many of the arguments used by Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons to bolster their claims that Jesus is not equal in divinity to the Father come right out of the Arian playbook.  There is nothing new under the son.  Those religions are just Arianism repackaged and regurgitated in modern day America.  The arguments they are having today with Christians have already been had and answered in 325 AD by the Church Fathers.  Read the works of Saint Athanasius in particular and you will see how he brilliantly demolishes the Arian claims and explains the Scripture verses that seem to suggest Jesus is less than the Father.  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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